PhilStar: Porous jails

The public is frustrated with the criminal justice system, and among the reasons is the porousness of the nation’s detention facilities. This became evident again last Sunday, when 13 inmates facing drug charges escaped before dawn from the detention facility of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency at Camp Olivas in Pampanga, home of the Philippine National Police regional office in Central Luzon.

As of late yesterday afternoon, six of the escapees had returned to the detention facility, with the rest likely to turn themselves in as well. This was after the PNP and PDEA reportedly issued a shoot-to-kill order for the escapees, most of whom are from Pampanga and Tarlac.

Initial investigation showed that the inmates sawed off the grills of their cell and escaped through a private subdivision at the back of the police camp. How do inmates get hold of a saw? Such mysteries are not unusual in the nation’s detention facilities. High-value terrorists, kidnappers and drug traffickers have waltzed out of supposedly maximum security detention even at the PNP headquarters at Camp Crame.

When inmates aren’t sawing off jail grills, their cohorts are springing them from detention. Communist rebels, Islamic separatists, the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and, more recently, the Islamic State-inspired Maute group have raided government detention facilities and sprung their cohorts. Last month, about a hundred gunmen said to be linked to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front swooped down on the North Cotabato District Jail in Kidapawan, killed a guard and freed over 150 inmates in what has been described as the country’s biggest jailbreak.

Authorities have cited overcrowded jails as well as the insufficiency of custodial personnel and security equipment for the vulnerability of detention facilities to raids and escapes. Corruption is also a serious problem in jails and national prisons.

These problems are not insurmountable and must be dealt with decisively if the administration is genuinely concerned about keeping the public safe. Jailbreaks not only pose a threat to public safety but also mean a waste of the time, effort and resources poured into the arrest of suspects.


NOTE : All publications and photographs have been taken from the Internet.


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